Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Seminary Life

For Horace O. Russell

National Bird of Jamaica – the ‘Doctor Bird’ found only in Jamaica

Grief arrived last night
on the other end of a phone call
from a dear friend

Grief not just for us and the family
but for the world our friend knew and loved
from the bottom of his generous heart

Colleague, Brother, Church Historian
Master of all things Jamaican
Wise and Eternally Optimistic

I hang up the phone
and weep for us and for this world
made better by your faithful presence

It’s impossible to capture in words the worldwide reach of our colleague’s life.

Horace O. Russell served the seminary as Dean of the Chapel, and Professor of Historical Theology. I worked with him as a teaching colleague and as an administrator. He was also the retired Senior Pastor of Saints Memorial Baptist Church in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Dr. Russell was Jamaican by birth, and world citizen by choice. He and his gifted British wife made their mark not just on the seminary, but on the church worldwide. Thankfully, his wife and another family member were with him when he left this world.

Today I’ve been thinking about Dr. Russell’s generous, optimistic support for me, and about the senior seminar we co-led more than once.

During these seminars, Dr. Russell sometimes shared case histories he’d written about his pastoral work in Jamaica. They sometimes made life in these United States seem a bit dull.

The actual outcome of each case wasn’t revealed until each student worked with it and shared what she or he would do next, and why. Never a dull moment, and always plenty of surprises at the end. His ability to enlarge our vision was one of his many gifts to the seminary.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Dr. Russell carried a small camera at all times (so it seemed to me). Usually he didn’t wait for people to pose. Informal was the way to go. No matter what we looked like in the photos, he was generous with prints of these historical records. Here’s where we were on this date; this is what we were doing; and this is what we looked like.

Today I’ve been going through my collection of his photos, torn between gratitude and grief. Grateful to know his suffering has ended, and that he was not and is not now alone.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 April 2021
Photo of Jamaica’s national bird found at

My basket full of gems

Friday. The end of a week of reading through a large basket full of notes, cards, programs and other bits and pieces of my life as an academic. So many gems, and I have more to go.

There’s a relentlessness about being a professor or an administrator. Especially the latter. Rarely enough time to appreciate what’s happening in the moment.

The bad stuff can fly away with the setting sun, as far as I’m concerned. But it’s those little stars that shine through the glaring darkness during the day that I didn’t have time to appreciate fully back then.

I know this for sure: In academic life it’s never just about me or just about you. It’s about all of us. It’s about the shaping of a generation that will hopefully do, say and change the way we do business with each other. For the better, of course.

Sadly, there’s also a sense of time running out. Not just because of relentlessly evil and despicable deadlines, but because we all have just so much energy to burn before it’s downhill all the way.

And so there I sat on the small sofa in my office, already on the downhill, picking bits of my past out of the basket. Surprise by surprise. Memory by memory. Tear by tear. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad.

It was a very good week. I haven’t quite known how to write about what happened during my seminary years. Going through my basket, I’m finally beginning to see a way of doing this piece by piece, keeping the focus on myself.

This morning I read an editorial about women who’ve earned a PhD. It described the writer’s sad experience of being dissed because she had earned a PhD, and because using her title (Dr.) on social media was somehow being a braggart, even though men do this without the same repercussions.

In a strange way, this helps me frame my basket of memories. I’m the proud owner of a Ph.D. which I earned all by myself (with the help, of course, of professors and colleagues). I don’t hide this reality. Yet having this degree meant everything and nothing when it came to negotiating the deep waters of seminary life.

It was important to lead with clarity in the classroom and in the dean’s office. It was even more important, however, to lead with my heart. The PhD was my calling card; my heart, however, walked in the door every day. Sometimes heavy, sometimes light.

This morning I was out early for a walk before the heat and humidity became unbearable. It’s a joy to be retired and able to walk outdoors, though I sorely miss the camaraderie of being with fellow pilgrims on a journey into the unknown.

Hoping your weekend includes Sabbath rest and time to enjoy being outside or at a window taking in our Creator’s great outdoor sanctuary!

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 June 2018
Photo found at

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